Herefordshire Week 227: Tuesday 30 April – Monday 6 May 2024

More rain.

Is it really May already?

And then – at last – some sun, a birthday party and an impromptu trip to Essex.


Still feeling my Skomer strained thigh muscle on Tuesday, so started off PT Block 3 with upper body. Back home for weeknotes. Picked up Phil from Abergavenny early afternoon. Good to have him home. Over to Talgarth early evening for Talgarth Walking Festival Leader Briefing, and a glass of white wine. Wine not often in demand at Talgarth FC Club House….. no red at all. Heavy rain.

First of May on Wednesday. At least it didn’t rain all day. Gym in the morning; computed for most of the rest of the day, even though it was dry. Got sucked into the Saturday Walkers Club website and the walk maps and descriptions …. In the evening, LED Board Meeting Zoom followed by VWW and Scotland Planning.

The rain returned on Thursday morning, lifting to sit over the hills as low cloud, clammy and close. After the gym (for cardio and LBT) and lunch I got stuck into flickring Skomer photos, with a woefully slow internet. Lovely Phil from P&P Pest Control came round early afternoon to advise on getting rid of rats. Mid afternoon I had a catch up with Tom en route to A&As. Back home to make dinner – introduced Phil to the delights of leeks, butterbeans and creme fraiche.

Just look at my leeks!
Just look at my leeks!

Friday = another wet day. Gym, fungus gnat spraying, lunch (fresh bread by Phil), Hereford, Timothy & Birch for coffee and cake (another yum). Home to computer. Pizza for dinner.

Saturday, what is this blue sky I see? To Ewyas Harold to get the loppers, shears and 5 pairs of secateurs sharpened at the Golden Valley Repair Cafe (so many skills available there!) then GVWC recce with J from the Gym, with the mandatory testing of the ice cream options at Rowlestone Ice Cream Farm. Yum yum.

Strava Map & Stats: Return to Rowlestone
Strava Map & Stats: Return to Rowlestone

All under beautiful blue skies. But the recent rain had saturated all the fields again, and there’s a lot of tall meadow grass on that route. Wet and muddy. Wellies were a good move, but my thigh / hip muscle didn’t like the 6 miles… and that convinced me to back out of trying the 14 miles and 11 miles on Sunday and Monday in the Talgarth Walking Festival. Gutted.

Home for a late lunch, a bit of R&R then back to EH for B’s 90th Birthday Party Buffet. A really lovely evening!

Another beautiful sunny day on Sunday. Coffee and pain au raisin out on the patio then a bit of gardening – digging up the weedkillered carroty things in Nora’s Rose Garden – then over to WTM. Good to have time with SG, and very grateful to be able to see T in WIV.

A tour of Leeway (so exciting!) then back to WTM on Monday.


The garden is lush and green. Cow parsley and stichwort line the lanes – it’s the month of white wild flowers and green, green grass, hedges and trees.

Orchid count:

  • Front lawn = 76!
  • Orchard = 1 (phew!)

TV: Shōgun (finished), Shardlake (started; that’s a very Disney monastery! And what’s up with Barak’s 21st century hairstyle???), The Andromeda Strain (1971 is over 50 years ago… and the plot and pacing were vastly different).

Podcasts: Americast, Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast, A History of Rock in 500 Songs.


Photos: Herefordshire week 227 on Flickr.

Phil: Pause.

Herefordshire Week 226: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 April 2024

Skomer stay! Puffins! And Everest Trek Get Together No. 20!

(You’ll have to wait for Puffin Pics – need to get them off my camera) Updated: now with added puffins

Serious puffins, Skomer
Serious puffins, Skomer

A drizzly morning on Tuesday, just right for sitting at my computer doing weeknotes, photos and various bits of admin. The weather perked up in the afternoon, but I was lost to Nepal 2023 trek wrap up – printing out our final itinerary and doing the insert for my diary and the map, and highlighting the route on my copy of the Himalayan Map House map for Makalu and Kanchanjanga, purchased in KTM.

Nepal 2023: Kanchenjunga & Lumba Sumba trek - Map showing our route
Nepal 2023: Kanchenjunga & Lumba Sumba trek – Map showing our route

Zoom with the KMCA ladies, and FaceTime with Phil in Witham. Then packed for Pembs!

Busy morning on Wednesday – up early to plant out seedlings and pack the Panda before driving the Zoe to the gym for aerobics and callisthenics then speedily home for a shower and final Panda packing before setting off for Carmarthen to collect H…. only to realise I’d left the keys in the porch door. Thankfully realisation arrived as I was driving through EH, so I was able to return home and retrieve them. It did mean I was half a hour late picking up Hazel though.

Tasty cake and a couple of mugs of tea at S&Ms then on to Newgale via M&S for wine bags – so practical.

G&T on the deck in the lovely evening sunshine then inside for traditional Everest Trek Get Together curries.

Drinks on the Deck
Drinks on the Deck

Up early on Thursday to get to Martin’s Haven for our 9am crossing to Skomer and the start of our two day stay. Fifteen of us in total, a mix of birders and tourists – we were definitely the latter, in spite of our basic bird knowledge.

Fresh off the boat, Skomer farm courtyard
Fresh off the boat, Skomer farm courtyard

After a brief briefing from the Visitor Officer we settled into our Manx Shearwater room for five and unloaded our food (and drink) into our designated cupboard and the fridge, then headed out for a stroll around the island. Sunshine and clouds, and a biting cold northerly wind.

A pair of razorbills, Skomer
A pair of razorbills, Skomer

Seals at Garland Stone, puffins, razorbills, fulmars and other gulls in the inlets, rabbits (and dead bird remains), bluebells and red campion lining the paths. We sheltered from the wind in the bird hide and spotted mallard ducks, Canada geese as well as the ubiquitous gulls (various varieties) and heard some pheasant squwarks. No short eared owls. Later on a lone buzzard spiralled on a rare thermal.

Rabbit, Skomer
Rabbit, Skomer

Very nice to be able to return to the farm / hostel for tea and cake, a late lunch, and finally chips n dips followed by chilli for dinner. I got the log stove going, warmed up the lounge / dining room nicely.

Decided against going out to watch / hear the Manx Shearwater crash land under the cover of darkness. Felt all a bit too The Birds for my comfort.

Weather was much worse on Friday – wet, albeit a bit warmer. Incentivised by Bird & Bug Bingo we donned waterproofs and photographed slugs, tadpoles, LBBs, coots, oystercatchers, etc etc etc. More time indoors, sheltering from the worst of the rain, the day visitors looking longingly in through the windows…. Bird Log at 8pm in the dining room / lounge revealed our amateur status – although G’s mating curlews and D’s Skomer vole sighting gained us some kudos.

Puffins in the rain, Skomer
Puffins in the rain, Skomer

Up early on Saturday to pack up for the 8.15am “out of the hostel” deadline, cloudy and raining again. Just enough time to walk to The Wick (NO PUFFINS!) and round to the Boat Landing. Repeated the “chain transfer” technique to get our bags down to the jetty, and helped the new arrivals get their much, much heavier bags up one length of “chain”. Then back to Martin’s Haven.

We relocated the car to Marloes Beach NT car park and decided to try our luck at the Runwayskiln in the hope of a morning coffee….. and delightedly discovered that they’re open from 9am! RESULT. Coffee turned into Coffee and Carrot Cake, which set us up for a stroll back towards Martin’s Haven via the Lagoons and their bird hide…. An Endurance Hike Event meant the coast path was busy with runners, but handily the headland is open and roomy. Back to Runwayskillin along the road, then a really, really lovely lunch.

Lunch, Runwayskiln
Lunch, Runwayskiln

Back at the van, showered and relaxed, celebrating a successful Skomer Stay with Prosecco and crisps as soon as the sun went over the yard arm.

Time for a stroll on the pebbles and a thin strip of beach on Sunday morning then back to Steffi’s (via Lidl) for the mandatory and much loved Maurice’s Marvellous Sunday Lunch.

Easy drive home with sunshine and showers. Having refilled the peanuts in the bird feeder (top priority), I got the log stove going (and kept it going since) – the house had got cold while I was away; with Phil staying in WTM I’d turned off the central heating.

Caught up with various things on Monday morning – including checking in on my Oakchurch courgette plants and Jean’s seedlings (all doing well) and bringing in the house plants (some doing not so well after the overnight low temperatures, AND the fungus gnats are still around) – then over to dad and Jean’s to help with some DIY in the lovely new garden room. Bought a whole kilo of mealworms from Gen Dogsbody – need to help those breeding birds as much as we can with through this rain and cold weather.

Dug up some of my leeks for leek, garlic, butterbean & crème fraiche dinner. A success!


More orchids out on the front lawn and leaves are out on all the trees. The waterfall clematis is covered in flowers and the cherry trees in EH at covered in blossom, our various apples trees too.


TV: The Gone (season 1).

Podcasts: The Rest is Entertainment, AmericastEmpire, Americast, When It Hits the Fan.


Photos: Herefordshire week 226 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-04-28.

Herefordshire Week 225: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 April 2024

Some sun, some rain, some walks, some nice eating out.

Lunch at Gwatkins Red Cow
Lunch at Gwatkins Red Cow

Not a great night’s sleep, so a sluggish start on Tuesday morning. PT at the gym them home to potter in the garden – a lovely sunny day. Found one more orchid out (had hoped for more, but I suppose it’s been wet and cold since I spotted and staked the first batch), watered the lettuce and tomato seed trays, weedkillered the drive and by Nora’s Rose Garden. Dug up weeds. Inside to get the indoor freezer defrosting started. And all while listening to The Rest is Entertainment.

Late lunch then more garden / freezer fun as the jets roared overhead. I wonder where they were over the weekend….?

After the gym on Wednesday Phil and I headed into Hereford. Failed to buy birthday walking socks at Trekitt but had more success with Andrew Lamputt and our first visit to The Bookshop.

Thursday was lovely and sunny, if a bit nippy. We walked to Gwatkins Red cow for lunch, and strolled back, settling into the conservatory as the random raindrops started to fall. They didn’t deter the snooze….

Strava Map & Stats: Lunch at Gwatkins Red Cow
Strava Map & Stats: Lunch at Gwatkins Red Cow

Up early on Friday, dropped P off at Abergavenny train station and back to Pontrilas for 9am gym. A busy afternoon: Bonfire, pond weed relocation, rat nest digging, nettle pulling up, weedkillering (part 2) and …. mowing with the ride on mower – first outing of the year.

Busy afternoon
Busy afternoon

I’m always a bit anxious about getting the mowers going after their winter hibernation, worried that they won’t start. The Honda Mower was resolute about not starting again after its last refusal a couple of weeks ago when it ran out of petrol, which made me even more uneasy about starting the Ride On Mower. I disconnected the trickle charger from the battery, checked the oil, checked the petrol – it looked full, which was a pain as it would be old petrol and thus Not Good. Still, I sat and turned the key but the engine wouldn’t catch. There had been a lot of dried grass under the cutter skirts, so I brushed some of that away, and then wondered if a mouse had made a house underneath and nibbled some of the wiring…. so I opened up the bonnet again and checked the wires. And realised that the petrol tank wasn’t full, it was completely empty. A Lesson To Be Learned There. I poured in half a tank of fresh petrol and it started first time. Whizzed around the hollow and west lawn, the route of the old garden railway and the large pond, a few turns across the main lawn by the conservatory, and gave the orchard a second cut. I’ve left the cut grass to dry / mulch. I didn’t get the chance to collect it once it had dried.

I finished off my Nepal 2023 Photos & Notes blogpost too, having enjoyed plotting the maps and the PulseOx graphs on Wednesday: Kangchenjunga & Lumba Sumba: Photos & Notes.

I spent most of Saturday with dad and Jean – to Timothy & Birch for coffee and cake (= quite a sugar + caffeine rush!) then on to Oakchurch where I got a new weed trowel, two cucumber seedlings and some weed preventing membrane for when I get round to digging out the ditch on the west side of the house, lining it with the membrane and then putting gravel there.

Back to Winchester for a late lunch, sat outside on the patio in the sunshine. A brief trip home with seedlings from Jean, time for a bit of weed digging (trying to get rid of the white carrot like ones, and nettles while they are easily lifted), then back to Winchester for Indian Takeaway Treat. Home via Asda.

A lovely day – sunshine and happiness.

Out with the GVWC on Sunday, walking the Pengethley Loop which takes in St Dubricius church and the Pengethley Estate, Hoarwithy and St Catherine’s Church, King’s Caple and Sellack suspension bridge. A lovely walk, starting under cold cloud and returning in glorious sunshine for a pot of tea and a scone at Pengethley Garden Centre.

Strava Map & Stats: GVWC Pengethley Loop
Strava Map & Stats: GVWC Pengethley Loop

Catch up with AL on Monday morning, then an afternoon preparing butternut squash curry, veggie chilli and home made hummus for our next Everest Trek Get Together which will feature a couple of nights / days on Skomer – island home of the Pembrokeshire Puffins!


Bloomin’ fungus gnats are back, in abundance, everywhere. I relocated all the house plants (bar the orchids) outside onto the patio table, and sprayed them with the last of the hydrogen peroxide. And ordered some more. So far the plants seem to be surviving. Hopefully the gnats aren’t.

I’ve found a few more orchids on the front lawn, and dug up a lot of “white carrot” weeds and nettles.

Spotted a pair of partridges having a dangerous dust bath on the drive! Not seen any of these cute fellas and fella-ettes for a couple of years.

Partridge Pair on the drive
Partridge Pair on the drive

TV: Shōgun, What We Do In The Shadows (finished season 5), Secret City (finished season 2), The Gone (season 1).

Podcasts: The Rest is Entertainment, AmericastEmpire.


Photos: Herefordshire week 225 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-04-21.

Herefordshire Week 224: Tuesday 9 – Monday 15 April 2024

Sunshine! Some walks and more work on Nepal 2023 Photos & Notes – almost done.

Bluebells and birdsong (video, 23 s)
Bluebells and birdsong (video, 23 s)

Final physio appointment on Tuesday. Home to do admin.

Usual gym classes on Wednesday morning, and an afternoon of Nepal photos & notes getting us over the Lumba Sumba Pass (fabulous day), which spurred me on to email Val about this year’s trip.

Snow, tracks and Kanchenjunga peaks, en route to Lumba Sumba Pass No 1
Snow, tracks and Kanchenjunga peaks, en route to Lumba Sumba Pass No 1

Gym again Thursday morning, then into Hereford to return/collect library books at Belmont, fill up the car at Tescos and checked the car tyre pressures at Locks. Then back for a late lunch followed by more Nepal photos & notes. Val called and we talked about Nepal 2024… Langtang with Val’s Variations is the front runner.

Thudam (3556m) - village, river and camp panorama
Thudam (3556m) – village, river and camp panorama

Gym again on Friday morning and a quick turn around at home so as to pick up T and to drive to Gwatkins Red Cow for early lunch. Back home I brushed sand into the new patch of drive then Phil and I walked down to Dore Abbey and back, getting delayed quite a lot by the Tan House Farm lambs….

Lamb on shelter
Lamb on shelter – Phil’s photo

Did some more Nepal photos & notes – on the home run (almost literally).

Possibly our jeeps, waiting to load up outside the Sherpa Guest House, Num
Possibly our jeeps, waiting to load up outside the Sherpa Guest House, Num

Drove to Blaen y Cwm car park on Saturday morning (home of the flat tyre incident) and met Sonia to do a walk – Grwyne Fawr Reservoir Circuit: Blaen y Cwm car park – Chwarel y Fan – Blacksmith’s Anvil – Rhos Dirion – Grwyne Fawr – Grwyne Fawr Reservoir – Blaen y Cwm car park. Cloudy and windy on the tops so we changed the planned route (dropping down the Capel y Fin and climbing back up to Twmpa along the waterfalls valley) and continued along the ridge to Rhos Dirion. On the way home we stopped off at the Skirrid Inn for a pot of tea and crisps – they don’t do cake.

Grwyne Fawr
Grwyne Fawr

Phil and I started Sunday with a walk: Bacton Square and Thistly Field, via Dore Abbey lambs. We did Thistly Field just in time as the calves arrived in the afternoon.

Thistly Field Trough
Thistly Field Trough

Back at base I put stakes into the front lawn to mark orchid locations and planted out a tray of tomato seeds before lunch. After lunch, it was time to mow the orchard – apart from small section when the petrol ran out and I couldn’t restart the mower after refilling it. Did some weeding by the willow tree stump and Jean’s wisteria. Relocated two mint seedlings down to the small pond; it needs some algofin to deal with the green gloop. Sorted out my log stove starter sticks in the garage, which Phil found hilarious.

We drove to Bracknell and back on Monday to visit CG. GVWC AGM in the evening. A day of cold winds, heavy rain, occasional hail and bright, bright sunshine.


It’s time for the purple, pink, blue and yellow flowers in the garden.

Orchids emerged on the front lawn (I’m slightly amazed given how saturated it’s been)

Wild orchid on the front lawn
Wild orchid on the front lawn

Clematis

Waterfall Clematis
Waterfall Clematis

Bluebells

Bluebells down at the far end of the garden
Bluebells down at the far end of the garden

Cowslips

Cowslips on the front lawn
Cowslips on the front lawn

Surprised by the alarm call of one of our nuthatches, I’ve been using Merlin to identify the birds I can hear around the garden. And I’m trying to remember the difference between Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush.

We did have a small grey-green bonker on the conservatory window. Not terminal, but it sat panting on the patio until Phil when out to put it in a papter towel stuffed box to keep it warm, at which point it flew off, with a bonk on the lounge window just for good measure. We think it was a chiffchaff, and we do hear those a lot.


TV: Shōgun, What We Do In The Shadows, Secret City (polished off season 1, and started season 2).

Podcasts: Americast, Gone MediaevalThe Rest is EntertainmentThe Today Podcast, Walescast, When It Hits the Fan.


Photos: Herefordshire week 224 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-04-14.

Herefordshire Week 223: Tuesday 2 – Monday 8 April 2024

Celebrating finishing the Excavated Earth Relocation – 41 wheelbarrow loads all told. GVWC walk. More Rain – and Storm Kathleen.

Strava Elevation & Pace Graph: GVWC Abbey Dore, Ewyas Harold, Dulas, Bacton & Abbey Dore
Strava Elevation & Pace Graph: GVWC Abbey Dore, Ewyas Harold, Dulas, Bacton & Abbey Dore

Tuesday morning to the gym, then back to the Pile of Earth. I joined Phil with the second wheelbarrow, transporting turf down to the end of the lawn and our own personal levelling up project. Hard work. BUT we finished it, and drove over to Ewyas Harold to celebrate with a late lunch at The Temple Bar Inn.

Yum yum
Yum yum

Back at base I settled in on the sofa for some reading, finishing off The Vaster Wilds and starting The Saracen’s Mark.

Gym on Wednesday then into Hereford for M&S, speedy shop and a mooch around the temporary library – my enthusiasm for book reading definitely depends on having some books to hand that I actually want to read (rather than feel I ought to read). Who knew! Disappointingly the temporary library is one small room with only a handful of shelves rather than the whole main library. Still, I managed to come away with two new books to read. I’ll continue to click & collect from the Belmont branch.

Late lunch, dinner prep, then out to walk Tremorithic Roads with JP, a partial recce for Saturday’s GVWC route, sticking to the tarmac to avoid the endless mud……

Strava Map & Stats: Tremorithic Roads with JP
Strava Map & Stats: Tremorithic Roads with JP

Back home we finalised the email for Saturday’s GVWC walk then tucked into dinner.

Caught up with admin on Thursday, heavy rain overnight (again) gave way to blue skies and birdsong. PT, FloGas, visit from T & L. Rain returned. Computer-ed. Chopped the last lot of last year’s apples from the apple racks. VWW!

Felt groggy and pooped all day Friday. Managed aerobics and stretch at the gym then settled in the lounge with a book for the rest of the day. There may have been a surprise snooze too….

On Saturday thankfully Storm Kathleen delayed her arrival until early evening so my GVWC walk went ahead relatively free of wind and rain. We did the Roads version of the Ewyas Harold, Dulas, Bacton & Abbey Dore Circular, sort of. I’d walked the Dore Abbey to Ewyas Harold section – Dicks Pitch and over the Common – en route to the walk rendezvous at the Rec. It was exceeding muddy so we did a car shuttle from Dore Abbey at the end of the walk.

Back in Ewyas Harold we repaired to The Temple Bar Inn for medical rehydration: a cup of tea and a tasty Bakewell slice in my case.

Strava Map & Stats: GVWC Ewyas Harold, Dulas, Bacton & Abbey Dore
Strava Map & Stats: GVWC Ewyas Harold, Dulas, Bacton & Abbey Dore

Made mushroom risotto for dinner, wilting in half of the wild garlic we’d picked last weekend. Yummy.

Storm Kathleen hung around for most of Sunday bringing bursts of wind and heavy rain. Pottered around indoors. Sounds of gunfire from the Army camp – they’ve been busy recently. BK came to take a look at the two old bedrooms we want redecorated, and then I did another day of Nepal Photos & Notes. The half day from Sanjung Camp to Lumba Sumba Pass East High Camp was really amazing…..

Me, at the hot juice stop on the gully climb from the wide hanging valley to the upper section of the Dingsamba Khola valley
Me, at the hot juice stop on the gully climb from the wide hanging valley to the upper section of the Dingsamba Khola valley
Me and Sonia at the start of the next section of the Dingsamba Khola valley, leading to Lumba Sumba Pass East High Camp
Me and Sonia at the start of the next section of the Dingsamba Khola valley, leading to Lumba Sumba Pass East High Camp

Phil and I made the most of the dry start to Monday to walk the Bacton Square. We’ve not done that for a while. The rain held off, just about. We even saw some lambs boinging.

Strava Map & Stats: Bacton Square with Phil
Strava Map & Stats: Bacton Square with Phil

Back at base I planted out the last of the daffodils Phil had dug up ahead of the drive extension…. and it took me a while to spot that There Was A Squirrel INSIDE The Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder. GRRRRRRR. It had eaten sufficient peanuts that it couldn’t easily squeeze back out again. After a few minutes of “encouragement”, I lifted the bird feeder off the pear tree perch and took it – and The Squirrel – down into the orchard, and lay the feeder on its side. Eventually The Squirrel managed to squeeze out between the bars. Again, with some “encouragement”.

Jet training at the army camp today.

Spent the afternoon reading in the lounge – Lessons in Chemistry; good tip from RG.


In the garden, the first blossom is materialising on the pear tree and the first flowers on the waterfall clematis.

Blossom on the pear tree
Blossom on the pear tree

The grassy grounds are patterned with dandelions and daisies – and cowslips. How they cope with the saturated clay I’ve no idea. Fingers crossed for the wild orchids.

Snowdrop leaves are starting to yellow, and the daffodils on the front lawn and down by the old garden railway are turning too. Reassuring to read that Monty Don didn’t have that many daffodils flower this year either; he reckons the warm wet autumn and winter favoured greenery over flowers.

During the dry spells, kites cruise and buzzards circle. Lots of birdsong in the morning: chiff chaff, blue tit, wren, blackbird, song thrush. Out by Bacton we added goldcrest, greenfinch and blackcap. (Thank you Merlin!). A trio of goldfinches doing aerial acrobatics over the tall grass on the front lawn.

But I am so sick of the rain and the mud. The water run off from the fields means we have a permanent stream – albeit a very shallow one – flowing from the end of the ditch in the verge on the lane downhill towards the junction at Thistly Field.


TV: Shōgun, What We Do In The Shadows, Renegade Nell, Ripley (finished), This Town (meh – shame), The Assembly with Michael Sheen.

Podcasts: Shedunnit, History Extra, The Today Podcast, Americast, Gone Mediaeval.


Photos: Herefordshire week 223 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-04-07.